The Basic Early History of the Firearm
In the first part of this series we discussed the evolutionary origins of the need to defend oneself, or the group, from a distance. Now we will discuss the early evolution of firearms in their modern forms and the eras. The creation of firearms, among with many other inventions and revelations, began to change the world into the one we see now.
It all started in 9th century China, under the Tang dynasty, back when they did not have a authoritarian, dictatorial government, controlling all thought and innovation, which meant more freedom, new ideas, and innovative creation.
The first record of gunpowder shows up in the history books as a Taoist medicinal formula, it wasn’t until the 12th century that its chemical nature was refined and developed into an explosive. The early creative use of gunpowder seemed to be limited to what today we might call “fireworks,” though at that time these would have had some limited use as weapons. By the 13th or 14th century the secret of gunpowder had made it to the Middle East and Europe. Black powder firearms were useful enough that a small handful of men armed with guns could easily overwhelm much larger groups armed with only close range weapons. It is possible this is largely due to fear and the ability to, once again, keep other groups at range all while inflicting mass devastation.
It took a few hundred years of experimentation but eventually in the 19th century, they innovated further, creating the modern cartridge and repeating rifles. Fortunately, gone are the days of unreliable firearms that required well trained individuals to be effective. Now, anyone could save up some money and buy a tool that would give them the ability to easily hold off unwanted violence, protect property, or make those who are stronger than you think twice (as the risk vs reward calculation has now dramatically changed). Just like the large-plain predators could be staved off by throwing rocks, now the human predators can be easily be staved off by “throwing” bullets. Which happen to be far more accurate than rocks, with a considerably higher chance of lethality upon impact. It also translated into easier, more efficient hunting and gathering of protein, which previously required extensive training, effort, and risk.
Like all technologies, the easier they are to make and the more viable they are, the cheaper they become. Now everyone has the ability to easily defend themselves, at a distance, with minimal effort, and relatively little training (though training is needed for safety and overall ability, especially for more complicated self-defence situations).
This also means it was now much easier for “rebel scum” to stand up to authoritarian/abusive leadership. Although many historians may say that fall of the great empires was due to their overextension and empty coffers (as a result of ongoing wars), it could also be argued that, at the same time, the average citizen had the ability to reasonably protect themselves from unwanted aggression from their “dear leaders”, in many cases introducing higher risk for both parties. In some sense, this is very much a micro version (and less dramatic) of mutually assured destruction that we see with the possession of nuclear weapons. This is very much why, as you will read later on, if you want to be a dictator you must disarm the general populace. As back in the day it was simply a matter of showing up with 10-20 trained men with swords and you could easily defeat resisting citizens. Now, one person with a gun could reasonably hold off any type of goon squad, and losing men at a rapid pace is of course very costly to the aforementioned coffers, so the calculation of risk vs reward for using force changed dramatically. Thus, as stated in the previous post, the ability to defend yourself is a MUST if there is to be a balance of power between those in power and the citizens below them.
A More Modern History of Firearms and Civilian Ownership
In discussing the topic of civilian gun ownership in Canada, or anywhere for that matter, we believe it’s important to look at the social and political factors that affect that issue, as well as the attitudes surrounding it.
For example, in spite of a recent, sweeping ban on certain types of widely available firearms, on the part of our federal government via an order in council, gun ownership in Canada has actually climbed to an all time high.
Why is that exactly? Aside from sport shooting and hunting being more popular than ever, we believe there is also a great deal of concern over the political climate in the Western world these days, and what that means for the future sanctity and effectiveness of our institutions. One of the most profound threats to that of course being the “defund the police” movement, which only caused a dramatic increase in crime in the cities that chose to apply that strategy. Largely due to the fact that those willing to be violent now felt their risk vs reward was now much more favourable with a the police force’s ability to fight back being reduced. This is a simple matter of “is the risk of violence worth any blowback one might face?” No police equals less risk to those who would choose violence as a means to “gather resources” from others.
Historically, if you look at societies that disarmed their citizenry and dismantled their police services, it almost always led to tyranny and mass murder. Look to the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Nazi Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, and now, once again, the Taliban in Afghanistan, for different versions of the same tale. The last, the Taliban’s confiscation, is a current event at the time of writing this article, yet most western media seem to be playing down the significance of this, as the Taliban is implying that everyone will be “safe” as “they” are in charge again. This is unlikely to go well for the people of Kabul if it progresses like any of the other aforementioned public disarming’s, let alone the Taliban’s own terrible history of oppressions.
If you consider what happens to a society whose institutional systems for crime and punishment have been dismantled or rendered ineffective, it makes sense as to why ordinary people might want some means with which to defend themselves. If at the same time you have a population that has effectively its means of self protection removed, you have a situation where a government, or whatever group has taken control, wields unchecked power to implement whatever “policy” it pleases, as it pleases, however it pleases.
Here’s a blog post by Belgian martial artist Wim Demeere that illustrates the many unintended, negative consequences of defunding the police, and here’s a decent article on Venezuela as a cautionary tale explaining why a government just might be in a hurry to disarm it’s citizens. In a weird and contrary to normal twist, the current right-of-center president of Brazil is encouraging all persons to arm themselves as he claims their is a leftish/foreign plan to “hijack the country” and leave all once again render all citizens unarmed. This may have some truth or it may be an attempt to arm his supporters, as, according to recent polls, he is probably going to lose the next election. However, it should be clear that a disarmed public can easily be coerced or convinced, via various methods, to allow only the government or those in power to have the right to guns and use of force.
This is not just something to be mildly concerned about, as a government that has exclusive rights to use of force and firearms can very quickly be the boogeyman dictatorships we were warned about many years ago, but this is the topic for the next in this series. Some have argued that it is governments having exclusive rights to use of force and firearm’s that has lead to the stability of the modern world. This, however, is a mildly naïve argument, as it assumes that nothing will ever go wrong with the government having this kind of power and that as we increase or global populations our systems and government will still be able to maintain control with the comparatively limited forces they have. If anything were to go wrong, which can certainly happen, then the average citizen would now be left with no easy way to defend themselves against unwanted aggression. The idea that this can never happen is also naïve and can be viewed as a “normalcy bias.” So if you want the best possible guarantee that you can protect your family, property, and, more importantly, your genes, then the best solution is civilian gun ownership, as it protects everyone and the species in the case things go horribly wrong.
Whether a country allows civilian ownership or only government ownership, it will always beg the question of ethics, morality, and how much force is too much, but this is for the next post to address.
Written by Jonathan Fader and Max M.
*Please read, learn and follow your local laws to know what is acceptable in your society and country regarding firearms, self-defence, and personal ownership. Do not break the law in your country regardless of your personal beliefs.